Fear, force, greed, and need are all tried and true ways to lead. Yet none positive or sustainable.
When it comes to greatness, and lasting for the long haul, look no further than 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA. Its membership has grown into the tens of millions, fully global (since well before Walmart or even Sears Roebuck, for that matter,) stable and scandal free for more than seven decades. How do they do it?
Its longevity is due in part to the critically important, but less well-known “12 Traditions.” Developed in tandem with the 12 steps we’ve heard about, and hammered out on the anvil of learning among the participating alcoholics, these formal traditions ensure the cohesion and smooth operation of the organization as a whole.
AA Tradition One: “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.”
Just imagine for a moment: what if the world operated that way? If the majority of leaders in business, politics, and other organizations actually functioned for the common welfare—to ensure we are all fine. Got that in mind?
Now you understand the core of sustainable leadership.
In my mind, it boils down to one key question: are your actions making things better for others, or not?
Let’s break it down:
“Are your actions…”
As a supervisor, manager, leader, friend, mate, or companion you decide to act, or not. Actions include what you choose to do, tell or ask, and what you choose NOT to do, like pausing, contemplating, ignoring, or denying. Consciously or not, these are the actions you take. What actions are you taking today?
“…making things better…”
Whether increasing the common good, doing something for a greater good, addressing an immediate need, or simply helping out—your actions and inactions have the power to improve. Are you using that power today?
In terms of whom your actions are impacting in some good way, it’s all good—the one, the few, and/or the many. To know that you helped someone, or many someones, today—OTHER THAN YOURSELF—is a great way to turn out the light, blow out the candle, and go to sleep. Who have you helped today, other than yourself?
If you and/or your organization are not impacting the world by, as AA puts it, putting our common welfare first, then you are not alone. But the challenge for you is what would it be like if you did? Would you appreciate your work and life more?
Much collective experience says that when we consistently act for the common welfare in a unified way, it's is far better, and more sustainable, than the alternative. We all have a long way to go on this, and that bodes well—we shouldn’t be bored!
The Recovering Leader